Catalyst - II
Just 4 years after their 1st successful EP, Belgium’s prog death group Catalyst are back with the simply titled album “II.” Though there isn’t too much to go off of here (just like the predecessor), the band still delivers some solid mix of death metal, progressive metal, and even touches of metalcore for a well rounded EP. Granted, this isn’t going to be like Opeth or Blood Incantation on epic or technical levels, but for those just getting into progressive death and need something pretty straightforward this will do the trick. Opening with ‘Delirium Nostrum’ the band leads in with some clean rough vocals and excellent guitar work and harmonies that are reminiscent of Devin Townsend, though the melody is quickly erased when the harsh vocals come in, and with the chugging guitars that follow, it definitely feels more melo death or metalcore styled in the vein of a group like Sortout or even Killswitch Engage.
There ins’t much in the way of acoustic guitars here or piano or electronics so mostly the guitars and vocals do the work with the drums as support, but the solos here are impressive and very keyboard sounding (not quite Children of Bodom keyboard sounding on the solos but pretty close). The clean vocals have a variety to them that balance between gothic metal and power metal, so they are unique in that sense. As the album carries on other tracks like ‘Concrete’ and ‘Debt to the World’ tend to blend together a bit in their style. Again, the guitars and vocals take the lead here as the focus but the band does their best to try and vary things by adding layered vocals when it comes to the cleans, slower guitar riffs, and almost an eastern touch to the music so it doesn’t feel like a run-together with the 1st track.
‘Sustainable Dignity’ has some excellent groove and chug to it that steps away from the metalcore/ melo death shadow and gives Catalyst a little more life to their music. The harsh vocals have more ‘growl’ to them than rasp and the drums add a bit more varied pattern to back the guitars. The heavy metal/ power metal touches are still there but this track seems to stand out a bit more than the two earlier ones. The highlight of the album is ‘Fear Well’ which finally amps up the progressive elements. While ‘Sustainable…’ brings the death metal factors, ‘Fear…’ slows things down and adds grand orchestral atmosphere with piano/ keyboard and a much more relaxed pace. While this is a far departure from the heavier metal heard on the first half of the album, the biggest hit is the drums here which have a lot more life here. The riffing style feels a bit repetitive so listeners are instead drawn to the drums which are heavier and less buried than before. The pacing is varied too, going into fast heavier sections and then slowing down again, even if just for a mid paced chug, which include some ‘wailing’ backing guitar work. The whole track is just a great showcase of progressive death metal with how varied it is in a short dose versus sitting through an 8 to 13 minute track. Then we get the closing ‘Rights of Passage’ which goes more back to the standard death metal/ metalcore mix. It sounds a lot more simplified compared to what just came, but despite the simplicity the track still has plenty of groove and churn with its death metal flair.
Overall, Catalyst are still going strong with their works; each album seems to push the progressive factors a little more. While a full length album would have been nice to see with more depth, this EP is good continuation of what they started with “I.” Hopefully in the future “III” will be more varied, a great mix of soft and heavy, and have a few more stand out pieces that try to break the prog death mold of the norm these days.
3.5 / 5 STARS